Kevin Kisner took advantage of warm and still conditions at St Andrews to surge up the Open Championship leaderboard, as low-scoring at St Andrews looked set to be order of the day.

American Kisner needed two birdies in his final three holes on Friday to reach level par, the cut mark, and he capitalised on an early tee time on day three to card nine birdies in a seven-under 65, moving at least briefly into the higher reaches of the leaderboard.

American Trey Mullinax and Italian Francesco Molinari also went low with six-under 66s, after both began on level par, while South African Dean Burmester had a 67 to reach five under through 54 holes.

Bryson DeChambeau was also surging into contention, reaching six under for his round through 13 holes, helped by an eagle at the ninth.

That put him alongside Kisner on seven under for the tournament, with Tommy Fleetwood joining them after picking up four shots through his first six holes.

Kisner, 38, proudly held the clubhouse lead and told Golf Channel the conditions had been ripe for going low.

"It was very benign earlier, hole locations a little more accessible and not playing as much wind as we've had the last two days, with it being pretty warm too," Kisner said.

"So the ball was going pretty far, and it felt like you were aiming right at the flag for the first time all week."

The afternoon forecast was for slightly stronger winds, with the possibility of showers, but the Old Course was giving the players great scoring opportunities and that looked set to continue, even if Kisner hoped a storm would brew up.

"I hope the winds blows like hell, and they can all shoot over par and I have a chance tomorrow, but I think there's a lot of birdies out there," Kisner said.

"The guys are really good golfers. Hopefully, they don't get too far away, and I can still have a chance."

Australian Cameron Smith held the lead through 36 holes on 13 under par, putting him two ahead of American Cameron Young, with Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Norway's Viktor Hovland one back on 10 under.

Rory McIlroy knows he has "got the game" to be the man who lifts the Claret Jug at the 150th Open Championship on Sunday.

The Northern Irishman carded a second-round 68 at Andrews to sit three shots behind leader Cameron Smith. 

McIlroy has not added to his major haul of four since 2014, when he was crowned Champion Golfer of the Year and won the US PGA Championship.

But he is confident he can change that on the Fife coast this weekend.

"I know I've got the game. That's all I need," he said. "I just need to go out and play my game and play my golf over the next two days and that's all I can do.

"Cam Smith goes out and shoots another two rounds like he did the first two days, I'm going to have a really hard time to win the tournament.

"I've just got to go out and do the best I can and worry about myself and hopefully that's good enough."

It was a day of low scoring at the home of golf, where Smith shot a blemish-free 64 to rise to the summit.

Australian compatriot Adam Scott also took advantage to sign for a 65, with McIlroy acknowledging it was important to be aggressive.

"It was one of those, you needed to go out and make birdies," he explained.

"It wasn't like you could be defensive at all. You had to go out and play well and make birdies because everyone was doing that.

"I just tried to play a little bit more on the front foot and be a little more aggressive."

But not everyone in the field managed to make the conditions count in their favour, with Tiger Woods labouring to a 75 as he missed the cut.

Afterwards, the 15-time major winner conceded he may never play an Open at St Andrews again, but Woods was heartened by the response he got from fans and his fellow professionals.

McIlroy was just starting his round and walking down the first when Woods was heading up the 18th to rapturous applause, with the two acknowledging each other.

"I've gotten pretty close to Tiger over these last few years," said McIlroy. "Especially after the accident, I think we've all sort of rallied around him down there in Jupiter and we all want to see him do well.

"He was our hero growing up, even though I'm maybe a touch older than some of the other guys, but we want to see him do well, we want to see him still out there competing.

"This week was obviously a tough week for him, but we're all behind him, we're all pulling for him."

Cameron Smith holds the 36-hole lead at the 150th Open Championship after a day on which Tiger Woods likely waved a fond farewell to St Andrews.

A stellar 64 from Smith handed the Australian a two-shot lead on 13 under at the halfway point, with Cameron Young his nearest rival, while the likes of Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Scottie Scheffler are firmly in the mix.

But 15-time major winner Woods, who has his name etched onto the Claret Jug three times, missed the cut following an untidy 75, conceding afterwards that he would probably not be returning when the home of golf next hosts the sport's oldest major.

Woods was met with rapturous applause as he made the walk down the 18th fairway, with McIlroy tipping his hat to the American as he headed down the first at the start of his round of 68, which left the 2014 winner three shots behind, level with Viktor Hovland.

After early rain on the Fife coast, the conditions were conducive to low scoring and Smith was one of a host of players to take advantage, with compatriot Adam Scott's 65 moving him to seven under and Tyrrell Hatton's 66 leaving him one better off.

Johnson got to nine under with a 67, one ahead of world number one Scheffler.

Other big names to join Woods in missing the cut were reigning champion Collin Morikawa, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson and four-time major winner Brooks Koepka.

SHOT OF THE DAY

Smith headed to the par-five 14th on the back of three consecutive pars and looking for something to ignite his back nine to match the fireworks of the front nine.

And my word did he find it. His approach shot found the green but was a long way from the hole, leaving him with surely a lag putt just to put it close enough for a birdie.

But that was never going to be enough for the on-form Smith, who rolled it all the way up to the hole and in the cup for a spectacular eagle. 

PLAYER OF THE DAY

Smith's 64 was Friday's lowest round on a day when his scorecard remained blemish-free.

The 28-year-old's putter stayed hot as he made six birdies and an eagle en route to a score that puts him in firm contention for a maiden major.

CHIPPING IN

Tiger Woods: "This is my favourite golf course. I fell in love with it back in 1995 and it hasn't changed. I just love how it can be played in so many different ways."

Mark Calcavecchia: "Forget about my golf. It wouldn't have mattered if I shot a pair of 75s or a pair of 85s, which I nearly did. It was about playing one more, my last one here at the home of golf, which is really cool to be able to end it here."

Cameron Smith: "I think there's going to be a few more gnarly pins, and I think being smart out there is definitely going to be the key to staying at the top of the leaderboard."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

- Cameron Smith's combined score of 131 is a record after 36 holes in an Open at St Andrews.

- All four past champions at St Andrews missed the cut: Zach Johnson (2015), Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Tiger Woods (2000, 2005) and John Daly (1995).

- From his 22 appearances at The Open, this was only the fourth time Woods failed to make the cut.

An emotional Tiger Woods conceded he is unlikely to play The Open at St Andrews again after missing the cut at the 150th edition of golf's oldest major on Friday.

The 15-time major winner carded a second-round 75 to sit nine over par, well short of the projected cut mark at the home of golf.

Woods was desperate to compete in this landmark tournament after his career was nearly ended by a car crash in February last year, and he admitted this was probably his final outing at an Open on the famous links.

It was fitting, then, that the 46-year-old – who has twice lifted the Claret Jug at the Fife course – was given a stunning ovation as he concluded his round, which left him with tears in his eyes.

 

"It's very emotional for me. I've been coming here since 1995... I think the next one comes around in what, 2030? I don't know if I will be physically able to play by then," he said.

"So to me it felt like this might have been my last British Open here at St Andrews. And the fans, the ovation and the warmth, it was an unbelievable feeling.

"I understand what Jack [Nicklaus] and Arnold [Palmer] had gone through in the past. I was kind of feeling that way there at the end – just the collective warmth and understanding. They understand what golf's all about and what it takes to be an Open champion.

"I've been lucky enough and fortunate enough to have won this twice here, and it felt very emotional.

"I just don't know what my health is going to be like. And I feel like I will be able to play future British Opens, but I don't know if I'll be able to play that long enough that when it comes back around here, will I still be playing?"

Woods admitted he was choked up by the response of the fans and his fellow professionals, including Rory McIlroy.

"As I walked further along the fairway, I saw Rory right there," he said. "He gave me the tip of the cap.

"It was a pretty cool, the nods I was getting from guys as they were going out and I was coming in, just the respect, that was pretty neat. And from a players' fraternity level, it's neat to see that and feel that.

"And then as I got closer to the green, more into the hole, the ovation got louder and you could feel the warmth and you could feel the people from both sides. It felt like the whole tournament was right there.

"I had a few tears. I'm not one who gets very teary-eyed very often about anything. 

"I put my heart and soul into this event over the years and I think the people have appreciated my play in the event. I've won it three times.

"Life moves on and I think that's what people understand, and they knew my circumstances this year, of just playing, period.

"I was very lucky to have had a great team around me to get me to where I was physically able to play three times this year and very thankful to all of them for getting me to this spot."

Dustin Johnson has no plans to revisit memories of his 2015 St Andrews collapse after taking the lead at the 150th Open Championship.

The former world number one shot a second-round 67 to move to nine under and top of the leaderboard.

Johnson conceded he was unlikely to remain at the summit come the end of the day, but he will be out to avoid a repeat of his weekend slump at the home of golf seven years ago.

Back then, the American held the 36-hole lead but carded consecutive 75s to fall well short, and he was not keen to dig that out of the memory bank following Friday's fine showing.

"To be honest, I don't even remember the third round from seven years ago," he said. "I've played a lot of golf since then, and that was a long time ago.

"Obviously any time playing in a major and playing golf courses, you learn stuff about yourself, but that was quite a while ago.

"I don't want to go back to it, obviously. It wasn't very good."

Johnson is now waiting to see how the weather will impact his strategy for the weekend as he eyes a third major and first Open title.

"Once I see what the wind direction is and we get the pins later, we kind of go through and map out a game plan," he said.

"It's all based on the wind how you attack the golf course and kind of where you hit it and where you want to hit it.

"I feel like I'm swinging well. Obviously, it's just avoiding the bunkers as much as possible. It's really hard not to hit it in one of the bunkers. I've been in three so far, and two of them I had to chip out sideways, and the other one I had a shot.

"If I can just keep out of the bunkers and just keep playing kind of smart golf where, when I have a good number and a club that I can get it close to the hole, I can be aggressive. But when not, just kind of hit it to 30, 40 feet and try to two-putt."

World number one Scottie Scheffler's 68 kept him within one of the lead, while Tyrrell Hatton's 66 also had him at eight under.

Adam Scott, playing alongside Johnson, signed for a 65 to seven under, with Rory McIlroy a further stroke back ahead of his 14:59 BST (local time) tee-off.

After early rain, conditions have been proving favourable for low scoring, but Tiger Woods was primed to miss the cut after moving to seven over through 15 holes on Friday.

Collin Morikawa knows it will be difficult to surpass the reception Rory McIlroy received at St Andrews after the world number two's fantastic start to the 150th Open Championship.

McIlroy will head into day two of the tournament just two shots behind leader Cameron Young after carding an excellent round of 66, in which he shot only one bogey.

The Northern Irishman won the Open in 2014, but missed out on the chance to defend his title at St Andrews a year later because of an ankle injury.

Yet he so far looks good to compete for winning his first major in eight years, and his fifth overall, with the 33-year-old receiving plenty of support from the crowd in Scotland.

When asked about the crowd reaction to McIlroy, Morikawa told reporters: "You hear your specks of Collin and specks of Xander, but it's hard to beat Rory."

McIlroy has been seen as something of a leader when it comes to speaking out against the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which has caused a divide across golf, with several elite players choosing to join the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway competition.

Morikawa has also stood by the PGA Tour, though he is pleased to have McIlroy leading the charge.

He said: "I think you know all the guys that have spoke about the PGA Tour. We've all kind of said what we believe. Look, we all support each other.

"That's the biggest thing is like we're all here to play in the PGA Tour and do what we do."

Morikawa and McIlroy played together on the Sunday of the Masters, when the latter shot eight under to make a late charge only to come up short to world number one Scottie Scheffler.

McIlroy has enjoyed top-10 finishes in each of the previous three majors this season, and Morikawa believes he is competing against a player close to the top of their game. 

Morikawa explained: "I mean, Augusta was near flawless. I'm trying to remember if he made even a bogey, I don't think he did.

"Today was a really solid round of golf. Didn't make any errors, hit it in the right spots.

"Overall, it was awesome. That's what I need the next three days if I want to get myself in the tournament."

Morikawa himself could only manage to shoot par for the day, meaning he has much work to do if he plans on retaining his title.

Disappointed with his performance, Morikawa remarked: "I just gave too many shots away on the greens, and it sucks. Sometimes you have those days.

"Today was just hit some good drives and hit a bad second shot, hit some good second shots, hit a bad putt. Never got any momentum going."

"This place is very special, for a lot of reasons. There's so much thinking to this golf course that it's great.

"I think that fits into what I like to do, but at the same time, you've got to execute. And if you don't execute, it's only a game plan."

Cameron Young's blemish-free 64 led the way after the first round of the 150th Open Championship, with Rory McIlroy firmly in contention at St Andrews.

Tournament debutant Young, who finished in a tie for third at this year's US PGA Championship, made the turn in 31 and picked up three more strokes on the way in to close on eight under.

McIlroy, who was defending champion but missed out through injury the last time the home of golf hosted this event in 2015, birdied the 18th to sign for a 66.

Tiger Woods faces a struggle to make the cut after the 15-time major winner carded an error-strewn 78 that included a double-bogey six at the first.

Claret Jug holder Collin Morikawa is eight shots off the pace after an even-par 72, while world number one Scottie Scheffler looms large at four under.

A host of putative contenders failed to keep pace with the leading pack, with Jon Rahm one over alongside Brooks Koepka, while Justin Thomas was one stroke better off.

It was Paul Lawrie who had the honour of getting this landmark edition of golf's oldest major under way, and the Scot finished his round with an eagle to post a 74.

There was huge disappointment for 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, who was forced to withdraw after suffering a back injury.

SHOT OF THE DAY

There will be no shortage of lengthy eagle putts on offer this week, with several of the greens on the many par fours reachable off the tee.

Ian Poulter had one such opportunity on the ninth, his drive leaving him with a putt of around 160 feet which he duly sunk.

That miraculous shot will have helped to soothe the Englishman's pain at being booed on the first tee, a reaction to his decision to join LIV Golf – though he claimed not to hear any jeers.

PLAYER OF THE DAY

English amateur Barclay Brown put himself in some esteemed company at the top end of the leaderboard following a stellar 68.

The 21-year-old, who qualified with a three-stroke win at Hollinwell late last month, handled the occasion brilliantly as he sunk five birdies and just one bogey.

Brown finished four strokes better off than the next best amateurs, with Sam Bairstow and Keita Nakajima both even par.

CHIPPING IN

Paul Lawrie: "I was surprised how many people were there to be honest. I wasn't expecting that. I thought there would be a few, but the stand on the right was pretty full. Nice to see all the people. You always get great support here." 

Barclay Brown: "I was unbelievably nervous at the start. And then once I got through the first couple of holes, yeah, it was nice to kind of calm down a little bit and hit some good shots and just get into it."

Scottie Scheffler: "There's a few holes where I don't know if it's possible to even hit the fairway, like if you're going to take the bunkers out of play, you can't hit the fairway."

A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME

- Since 1939, every winner at St Andrews has been within three shots of the lead after the first round.

- Tiger Woods' round took more than six hours, with the three-time Open winner teeing off in a group at 14:59 BST (local time) and taking his final shot of the day at 21:07.

- England's Matt Ford made his Open Championship debut at the age of 44 and signed for a 71.

Rory McIlroy was thrilled with his first-round 66 at the 150th Open Championship and is determined to back it up with another strong showing on Friday.

The four-time major winner sat two shots behind clubhouse leader Cameron Young after a superb opening round at St Andrews, with only one blemish on his scorecard.

McIlroy came close to an eagle on the last but settled for a birdie that left him six under and firmly in the mix.

"That was just sort of what you hope will happen when you're starting off your week," he said.

"I did everything that you're supposed to do around St Andrews. I birdied the holes that are birdieable and I made pars at the holes where you're sort of looking to make a par and move to the next tee. I didn't really put myself out of position too much.

"So, overall, really pleased. It's another good start at a major. Three in a row for me now. And looking forward to the next few days.

"Everything feels very settled. No real issues with my game. Everything feels like it's in good shape. Everything feels just sort of nice and quiet, which is a nice way to be."

Despite his evident satisfaction, the 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year, who was injured and unable to defend that title at St Andrews in 2015, knows he cannot rest on his laurels.

"I need to go out and back up what I just did," he said. "I think that's important to do.

"But again, this golf course isn't going to change that much, I don't think, in terms of conditions.

"I've seen the golf course now in tournament play and tournament conditions and know what to expect. I've just got to go out and back up what I've done."

While McIlroy enjoyed a fine start, the same could not be said for 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, who was four over through six holes and facing an uphill struggle to make the weekend.

Reigning champion Collin Morikawa signed for an even-par 72, while English amateur Barclay Brown made a name for himself with a 68.

World number one Scottie Scheffler looms large on four under after 11 holes.

Justin Rose has pulled out of The Open at St Andrews after suffering a back injury, with Rikuya Hoshino taking his place.

The 2013 U.S. Open champion was due to tee off at the 150th Open in a group with fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and 2018 Claret Jug winner Francesco Molinari.

However, the former world number one was unable to join his Ryder Cup team-mates as Hoshino instead completed the trio.

Rose's best placing at golf's oldest major came in the year Molinari won at Carnoustie, when he finished in a tie for second.

Paul Lawrie had the honour of getting the action under way at the Fife links on Thursday, with a host of big-name contenders waiting in the wings.

Defending champion Collin Morikawa goes out at 09:58 BST (local time) with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and the in-form Xander Schauffele for company. 

Another trio sure to draw a big following will head out at 14:59, when Tiger Woods and U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick will be joined by Max Homa.

Woods, who has won two of his three Open titles at St Andrews, said playing this tournament at the home of golf was a major motivating factor for him to return to fitness after his car crash last February. 

World number one Scottie Scheffler goes out at 13:26 alongside Joaquin Niemann and Tyrrell Hatton, while Jon Rahm is also an afternoon starter in a group that includes 2017 winner Jordan Spieth.

Conditions appear favourable on Scotland's east coast, with the fairways firm and receptive greens, although wind speeds may cause some problems at various points across the four days of competition. 

The 150th Open Championship got under way on Thursday as Paul Lawrie had the honour of hitting the first tee shot, with a host of Claret Jug contenders waiting to take to the course at St Andrews.

Scotland's Lawrie, Champion Golfer of the Year in 1999, got things up and running at the Fife links in a group alongside Webb Simpson and Lee Min-woo, with all three finding the first hole's generously wide fairway.

Defending champion Collin Morikawa goes out at 09:58 BST (local time) with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and the in-form Xander Schauffele for company. 

Another trio sure to draw a big following will head out at 14:59, when Tiger Woods and U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick will be joined by Max Homa.

Woods, who has won two of his three Open titles at St Andrews, said playing this tournament at the home of golf was a major motivating factor for him to return to fitness after his car crash last February. 

World number one Scottie Scheffler goes out at 13:26 alongside Joaquin Niemann and Tyrrell Hatton, while Jon Rahm is also an afternoon starter in a group that includes 2017 winner Jordan Spieth.

Conditions appear favourable on the Fife coast, with the fairways firm and receptive greens, although wind speeds may cause some problems at various points across the four days of competition. 

Rory McIlroy finds it hard to foresee any player shooting 59 or under at The Open Championship on the challenging Old Course that Tiger Woods says 'still stands the test of time'.

With a fair forecast in Scotland and the big-hitting stars descending on the final major of the year, many are expecting low scores across the weekend at the 150th Open.

The lowest round ever shot at a men's major was carded by Branden Grace, who managed 62 at Royal Birkdale in 2017.

McIlroy, the 2014 champion, shares the lowest round (63) at The Open at St Andrews alongside Paul Broadhurst, but does not envisage any player carding a sub-60 round.

"Fifty-nine is 13 under par round this golf course. There are 7,300 yards," said McIlroy, who has finished no lower than eighth at the first three majors in 2022.

"It's got greens that are running at 10-and-a-half to 11 [considered medium speed], it's got fairways where the ball is bouncing 50 yards if it's hit and more if it catches the downslope.

"I'll tell you what if someone shoots that [13 under] I will be the first person on the 18th green to shake their hand because they have played outstanding golf."

Woods is no stranger to success at St Andrews, where two of his three Claret Jugs have come, sitting in an exclusive club with Bob Martin, JH Taylor, James Braid and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win two Opens at the home of golf.

The American, who has battled injury struggles and retirement fears to feature at what could be his final St Andrews Open, echoed the sentiments of McIlroy as he outlined the challenges ahead.

"Even with the advancements in technology, this golf course still stands the test of time," Woods said. 

"It's still very difficult, and it's obviously weather dependent. You get the winds like we did today, it's a helluva test.

"On 10, I hit a six-iron from 120 yards. It was blowing so hard. So you just don't get – you just don't have opportunities to hit shots like that anywhere else.

"Then again, if you get a calm day on this golf course, you can see some players probably have four to five eagle putts. It is weather dependent.

"The fairways, I think right now, are faster than the greens. So it's funny, when you hit some of the chip shots and some of the bump-and-runs, you have to allow more speed early, then play for breaks when they hit the green.

"Again, with the amount of slope that's on these greens, if they get them too fast, it's unplayable when the wind gets up.

"We saw that when Louis [Oosthuizen] won. We had a wind-out. We don't want that to happen. And it's understandable why they're a little bit on the slower side."

The Open Championship boasts a history practically unmatched in the sporting world, with the famous St Andrews primed to host the 150th edition of golf's oldest major this week.

As the world's best players prepare to tee it up at the home of golf, all in the field will be hoping to write their names into the pages of this storied event.

Ahead of what promises to be a thrilling week of action on the east coast of Scotland, Stats Perform has delved into the history books to bring you the most intriguing facts and figures surrounding the most historic of golf's majors.

HARD LUCK JACK AND HAPPY HARRY

Nobody boasts more Open triumphs than the six claimed by the legendary Harry Vardon, who first prevailed in 1896 and last lifted the Claret Jug in 1914.

But for every winner there are those who nurse the heartbreak of narrowly missing out, and nobody became more familiar with that feeling than Jack Nicklaus.

With 18 major wins to his name, including three at The Open, it might be a stretch to summon too much sympathy for Nicklaus, but he had to make do with finishing second or in a tie for second on no fewer than seven occasions. 

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED...

When Collin Morikawa won at Royal St George's last year, he became the 10th player to taste success on debut.

That tells you that most players have to be patient when it comes to laying hands on the famous silverware, and for some that wait never ends.

But there are those for whom persistence has paid off handsomely – namely Darren Clarke and Phil Mickelson, who both finally triumphed at the 19th time of asking.

 

WIRE-TO-WIRE WINS ARE RARE

Only seven players have enjoyed wire-to-wire victories at a 72-hole Open, whereby they have held the outright lead at the end of all four rounds.

Rory McIlroy was the most recent example, achieving the feat at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

The last player to manage it at St Andrews was a certain Tiger Woods in 2005 – the second of his three Open wins as he retained his title the following year.

START FAST, FINISH STRONG

In 2010, St Andrews was the stage for the lowest opening round by an eventual winner as Louis Oosthuizen flew out of the traps with a 65.

Jordan Spieth equalled that with his first-round effort at Royal Birkdale in 2017, which was the year after Henrik Stenson had showed the importance of finishing with a flourish when his closing 63 saw off the challenge of Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon.

It also helps if your middle two rounds are solid, but very few players manage to put together four consistent sets of 18. Indeed, Woods is the only player to card four sub-70 rounds at St Andrews, doing so en route to his 2005 victory.

DON'T THROW IT AWAY NOW!

There is arguably no other sport that tests the psychological limits of its protagonists more than golf, which has seen more than its fair share of mental meltdowns.

Many will be familiar with the nightmare story of Jean Van de Velde's Open collapse in 1999 when he below a five-stroke lead after 54 holes – his hopes left to drown in Carnoustie's Barry Burn.

But that is not the biggest lead surrendered at The Open, with that dubious honour still belonging to Abe Mitchell, who led by six after two rounds in 1920 but ended up four adrift of champion George Duncan.

Everything has led to this.

That is the slogan for this year's Open Championship, with golf's oldest major celebrating its 150th edition this week.

Delayed a year by the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced the postponement of the 2020 tournament at Royal St George's – the first time since 1945 that the Open had not been played – this proud old competition will bring up its landmark at St Andrews, the home of golf.

Even against the backdrop of the LIV Golf furore, nothing can detract from the grandeur of an Open Championship at this famous links course.

The Saudi-backed breakaway tour has of course been a recurring topic here on Scotland's east coast this week, but the truly enlivening subject – the one which has prompted the most passionate discussion – has been the Open itself; its history, its prestige, its status as an iconic event that transcends the sport itself.

And that sense of occasion is heightened by The Open's homecoming to the handsome Old Course – the oldest in the world – which clings to the Fife Coast still now, 470 years after being established there.

It may be considered good form for players to speak kindly of any host venue, but none has ever drawn such glowing praise as this storied links, which is staging The Open for the 30th time – more than any other venue on the rotation. 

 

Those who have had the honour of playing here many times before and those who are set to embrace the St Andrews experience for the first time are united in their excitement for what is in store.

Reigning champion Collin Morikawa, whose maiden Open appearance ended in glory down in Kent last year, experienced the golfing equivalent of love at first sight when he pitched up at the Fife track.

"I love it. I can see why guys love it. I can see how special this week can be. I can see how the course can play a million different ways, depending on the weather," he breathlessly declared.

Rory McIlroy, deprived by injury of defending his title when the tournament was last played here in 2015, described winning The Open at St Andrews as "the holy grail" of golf, and all the ingredients are there for another memorable edition this time around.

The course has been basking in sunshine all week and attendees will continue to enjoy fine weather for the remainder of it, while the course set-up in general means a star-studded field will fancy their chances of carding some low-scoring rounds.

Monday's Celebration of Champions event, which saw the likes of McIlroy and Jordan Spieth entertain sizeable crowds alongside all-time greats such as Gary Player and Tom Watson, also welcomed Tiger Woods back to the course where he lifted the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005.

His presence always adds another level of intrigue, ensuring grandstands are full and even casual observers have a familiar name to lure them in to the spectacle of it all. The man himself said "this does feel like it's the biggest Open Championship we've ever had".

Woods is one legendary name to adorn the pages of The Open's illustrious history book, and whoever lifts the Claret Jug at the 150th championship at St Andrews will join the 15-time major winner in achieving a kind of sporting immortality.

Everything has indeed led to this.

Tiger Woods and U.S. Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick will feature in a headline threesome in the opening two rounds at the 150th Open Championship.

In what could be his last Open at St Andrews, where two of his three Claret Jug triumphs have come, Woods will tee it up alongside Fitzpatrick, fresh from his maiden major triumph at Brookline.

The pair will be joined by Max Homa and head out at 14:59 BST (local time), long after Scotland's Paul Lawrie has had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 06:35.

Reigning champion Collin Morikawa is in another group sure to draw a big following, with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and the in-form Xander Schauffele for company.

World number one Scottie Scheffler goes out at 13:26 alongside Joaquin Niemann and Tyrrell Hatton, while Jon Rahm is also an afternoon starter in a group that includes 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year Jordan Spieth.

Conditions appear favourable on the Fife coast, with the fairways firm and receptive greens, although wind speeds may cause some problems at various points across the four days of competition. 

 

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